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Daily Briefing: COUNTING DOWN TO THE U.S. ELECTIONS – PART II (November 3,2020)


Donald Trump and Joe Biden, official portraits
(Source:wikipedia, Andrea Widburg)

Table Of Contents:

US Amb. to Israel David Friedman: Mideast is ‘Exploding with Good Opportunities’ Under Trump:  Alex Traiman, Jewish Press, Nov. 1, 2020l

Will Trump’s Pro-Israel Moves Stand The Test Of Time?:  Jonathan Tobin, JNS, Oct. 29, 2020

What in the World if Trump Wins?: Walter Russel Mead, WSJ, Oct. 26, 2020

Trump a Revolutionary Leader In World Affairs: Con Coughlin, National Post, Oct. 24, 2020


US Amb. to Israel David Friedman: Mideast is ‘Exploding with Good Opportunities’ Under Trump
Alex Traiman
Jewish Press, Nov. 1, 2020

Over the course of the past four years, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has charted a new direction towards Israel, Iran and the greater Middle East. Many of the policies advanced during this period have looked considerably different from those of previous administrations—particularly that of Trump’s immediate predecessor, Barack Obama.

A central figure in the advancement of these policies has been U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, an American-Jewish bankruptcy attorney who represented Trump in previous business dealings, and a longtime advocate for Israeli settlements. His appointment initially was opposed by much of the U.S. diplomatic elite and many Mideast experts.

Highlights of the Trump administration’s Israel policy include: official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city; the transfer of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights; rollout of the Peace to Prosperity vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace, accepted by Israel as the basis for negotiations; and a reversal of longstanding American policy on the legality of suburban settlements in Judea and Samaria.

The U.S. election this week is likely to have profound implications for the future of America’s Mideast policy. Included are the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship and whether or not Friedman gets to spend another four years serving as ambassador. In the final weeks of a first or possibly only term, many of the Trump administration’s hard-fought efforts are only now beginning to bear fruit.

In just the past several weeks, three countries—the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan—have pledged to fully normalize diplomatic and commercial relations with the State of Israel. In the wake of these deals, which were advanced over the course of many years, America has further committed to ensuring Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME)—a fundamental principle of the Israel-U.S. alliance.

Last week, Trump indicated that as many as 10 countries could enter into normalization agreements in the near future. Whether or not he remains president beyond 2020 promises to be a major contributing factor in the likelihood and speed of such accords.
Also last week, Israel and the U.S. signed a bilateral, government-to-government scientific-cooperation agreement, and simultaneously removed the geographic restrictions on three legacy foundations—the Binational Science Foundation (BSF), the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD) and the Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD). As a result, projects in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria are now eligible for seed funding. Removal of the geographic restriction constitutes a major reversal of previous U.S. policy towards projects in Judea and Samaria. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

Will Trump’s Pro-Israel Moves Stand The Test Of Time?
Jonathan Tobin
JNS, Oct. 29, 2020

For President Donald Trump’s Jewish supporters, these last moves are just the icing on the cake. Both the decision to remove any territorial restrictions on scientific and academic bilateral agreements, which puts into action the administration’s 2019 ruling that West Bank settlements should no longer be regarded as “illegal,” and the ruling that American citizens born in Jerusalem will be able to name their place of birth as “Israel” are the culmination of a revolution in American Middle East policy.

Critics of the president are putting this down to politics rather than principle. But at this point, the question to be asked about Trump’s policies towards Israel is not whether they are going to help him get re-elected (which is highly unlikely), but whether his decisions will withstand the test of time if the polls are correct and he’s defeated by former Vice President Joe Biden.

The magnitude of the shift of policies dating back to 1967 and even 1948 cannot be overestimated. Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was a longstanding demand of the pro-Israel community. It was also one that even most activists, let alone Israel’s government, had long since given up on ever seeing happen.
Nor did anyone in the pro-Israel community dream four years ago that after a half-century of agreeing with the rest of the world that Jewish communities in the West Bank were illegal, the State Department would issue a legal opinion that would reverse that stand.

Yet he changed all that and more, including recognizing Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights and putting into place policies towards the Palestinian Authority that halted aid until it rescinded its funding for terrorism.

Foreign-policy veterans gravely predicted that going through with any of these measures, especially the shifts on Jerusalem and the settlements, would set the region on fire as outrage against Trump’s stands spread throughout the Arab and Islamic world. But to the dismay of his opponents and the shock of Obama administration alumni, these earthshaking reversals did not result in widespread violence and chaos. To the contrary, Trump’s foreign-policy team helped midwife the Abraham Accords, a remarkable turn of events in which the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan—with the promise of others following suit before long—normalized relations with Israel.

A few years ago, critics of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were warning of a “diplomatic tsunami” orchestrated by the Palestinians and former President Barack Obama that would leave the Jewish state isolated.

Today, thanks to their intransigence to even meet Obama halfway as he desperately sought to revive negotiations whose goal was to grant them statehood and a deal that would push Israel back to the 1967 lines with a few minor adjustments, it’s the Palestinians who are isolated. This is due, in large measure, to Obama’s efforts to appease Iran that essentially forced Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States into Israel’s arms. Though they still pay occasional lip service to the Palestinian cause, they have given up on them, rightly convinced that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah Party, as well as their Hamas rivals, are simply incapable of making peace with Israel on any terms. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

What in the World if Trump Wins?
Walter Russel Mead

WSJ, Oct. 26, 2020

The odds are against him again, but Donald Trump has every intention of winning four more years in office. In foreign policy at least, his second term would likely be even more transformative and unconventional than his first.

Most second-term presidents look to make a mark in foreign policy. This is partly because a president’s political clout at home diminishes as the definitive end of his mandate approaches, while overseas a president has a relatively free hand even at the end of a second term. So commanders in chief often go looking for diplomatic breakthroughs. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both devoted great efforts to getting an Israeli-Palestinian agreement in their second terms. Barack Obama signed the Iran deal and the Paris Climate Accords. As unconventional a figure as Mr. Trump is, he is likely to look for trophy achievements overseas too.

Second-term presidents have another important trait: They tend to trust their instincts more. Getting elected once might mean you are lucky; getting elected twice must mean you are good. Mr. Trump has never been a shrinking violet when it comes to trusting his instincts. If he shocks the experts by holding the White House, he will be even more convinced that his methods and beliefs are right. Brimming with self-confidence and increasingly eager to make a mark in foreign affairs, Mr. Trump will return to his old agenda with new energy—and renewed contempt for the foreign-policy establishments here and abroad that despise him.

Mr. Trump’s second term would probably be driven by a quest for “deals,” transactional bargains with other leaders, even more so than in his first term. This could be disconcerting to those around him working to create the institutional basis for a long-term approach to the rise of China and security in the Indo-Pacific. For Mr. Trump, it is all leverage, and for the right deal he will make large and unconventional concessions. China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela: Mr. Trump’s policy is likely to be a quest for dramatic if not always substantive or enduring deals.

This has several consequences. It reinforces Mr. Trump’s relative indifference to human-rights-based diplomacy. It strengthens his preference for diplomacy between sovereign states as opposed to multilateral rule-making and intensifies his impatience with international institutions. It will lead him to continue to seek good personal relationships with even the most controversial and adversarial figures on the world stage.

A second term would be at least as chaotic as the first. This is not simply because the president is undisciplined and indifferent to process and bases his decisions on intuition more than analysis. For Mr. Trump, chaos is more than a choice or even a habit. It is a tool for keeping ultimate control in his own hands. That a presidential tweet can at any moment reverse a policy that aides have labored over for months infuriates, alienates and not infrequently humiliates his subordinates, but Mr. Trump stays in control. Keeping your associates and adversaries alike guessing is, in the president’s playbook, a tactic for success. Officials can always be replaced; power needs to be conserved. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

Trump a Revolutionary Leader In World Affairs
Con Coughlin
National Post, Oct. 24, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Oval Office of the White House in 2018.

For all the domestic controversies that have surrounded Donald Trump’s first term in office, the one area where America’s 45th president has shown himself to be a true revolutionary is as a world leader. From confronting the emerging threat posed by China’s communist rulers to laying the foundations for a new era of co-operation between Israel and her Arab neighbours, Trump has succeeded in radically transforming the international landscape.

Not every Trump initiative, it is true, has been a resounding success. The president’s awkward courtship of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, culminating in a desperate attempt to send him a CD of Elton John’s Rocket Man, was one of the less appetizing moments of his presidency, even if his bold diplomatic initiative did result in an unprecedented rapprochement between the Korean peninsula’s rival camps.

Questions remain, too, about Trump’s ambivalent approach to Russia, which has encouraged Vladimir Putin to think he can expand Russian influence without encountering resistance from Washington.

Nevertheless, Trump’s unconventional approach has resulted in a radical overhaul of America’s dealings with the rest of the world — in many cases, for the better.

Arguably, Trump’s most significant achievement, and one very much in keeping with his “America First” mantra, has been to oversee a dramatic reduction in Washington’s involvement in overseas conflicts.

Prior to his 2016 election victory, there was a general consensus among both Republicans and Democrats that it was in America’s interests to maintain the role of global policeman, even if it meant involving itself in costly and unpopular military campaigns. Trump has turned this attitude on its head, overseeing a significant decrease in Washington’s global presence while at the same time applying pressure on allies in Europe and elsewhere both to assume more responsibility for protecting their interests, and to pay their fair share.

NATO is a good example of how this unconventional approach has paid dividends. For the better part of two decades, successive Republican and Democratic administrations chided Europe for not fulfilling its financial obligations to the alliance, but did nothing about it. Trump, having provoked a series of very public rows with the likes of Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has finally shamed the Europeans into agreeing to increase their NATO contributions. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

For Further Reference:

I Worked for Joe Biden. Here’s What He Really Thinks About Israel.: Sam Lauter, The Forward, Oct. 26, 2020 — If there’s one thing I’ve come to know about Vice President Joe Biden from working for him, it’s that he wears his heart on his sleeve. I was Biden’s personal assistant from 1986-87, during which time I learned that he says what he means, and he brings his life’s experiences with him, whether tragedy or triumph, sorrow or success, pain or promise.

Why I’m Voting for Trump:  We Elect a Team, Not a Person: Daniel Pipes, Middle East Forum, Oct. 20, 2020 — Faced with the choice between voting for Donald Trump or Joe Biden, Gallup finds that one-quarter of Americans say “neither would be a good president.”

How Biden Plans To Undo Trump’s ‘America First’ Foreign Policy And Return US To World Stage:  Kylie Atwood and Nicole Gaouette, CNN, Oct. 31, 2020 — After four years of norm-bending, treaty-disrupting and alliance-shaking foreign policy from the Trump administration, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is promising to return the US to its more traditional role on the world stage.

Poll: How Biden and Trump Differ on Foreign Policy Rene Entringer Garcia Blanes, Alexandra Murphy, Susan Peterson, Ryan Powers, Michael J. Tierney, Foreign Policy, Oct. 22, 2020 — U.S. presidential elections rarely focus on foreign policy, and the 2020 election campaign has been no exception so far. In fact, international affairs appear to be taking even more of a back seat during the current election season as the nation focuses on the domestic economy, racial justice issues, and a public health crisis.

Do Jews Owe Anything to the US Democratic Party? — Part II: Emet m’ Tsiyon, Jewish Press, Oct. 28, 2020 — We have shown that Roosevelt [Saint FDR, in the bon mot of Lawrence Lipton in the LA Free Press circa 1963] was a silent partner in the Shoah. Of course, young people may think that that was a long time ago. But the Democrats still honor Roosevelt with yearly memorial dinners and such.

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